Wednesday, August 26, 2015


I very rarely perform these days as I prefer to put my energies into composition, but I am going to a gathering of musicians tonight and a violinist friend and I are going to play a couple of pieces, just for fun. She picked out a piece I transcribed decades ago, originally for lute duet. It has a nice Elizabethan bluegrass feel. This is The Queen's Dump, by John Johnson which I transcribed from a photo reproduction of the Mynshall Lute Book, c. 1597 - 99:

I note that they have fudged the title, just a tad. In the original it is titled "The Queene's Dump (A Dump)" and at the end of the solo part it says "A Treble". That's the melodic part. Then appears the eight measures of chords that the other lute plays and it is titled "the grounde to the treble before". And that, apart from the name of the composer, John Johnson, is it. That stuff about the Queen's Revels is an invention of the modern performers. I guess the word "dump" just made them nervous. At this point in time it is difficult to know the origin of the name, but the piece is a set of variations on the old bergamesca ground bass originating in Italy.

The other piece we are going to play is one I wrote a few years ago. It is one of a set of four pieces for violin and guitar published by The Avondale Press in Vancouver. This one is titled "Cloudscape". I have posted it before, but there are many new readers that have not heard it. I have chosen some photos taken during the recording session to accompany the audio.


Marc Puckett said...
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Marc Puckett said...

Webster's 1828 says that a dump is 'a melancholy tune or air' (N. W. comments, "this is not an elegant word"). The Elizabethans had a dance called the dumpe, dump, dumpte-- but I can't find anything in the late mediaeval French lexicons available online that appears pertinent, and alas the Oxford English Dictionary online is beyond the reach of my purse, although not of law professors'. :-) Your dump doesn't sound melancholy to me, although I suppose such estimations can change over the centuries and cultures.

Had never listened to a piece written for violin and guitar-- Cloudscape is lovely, and the interplay between the two voices is happily challenging. Thanks!

Christine Lacroix said...

Cloudscape is beautiful. Definitely worthy of some shameless self-promotion if you could bring yourself to do it. I can't find it on YouTube, and where's the rest?

Bryan Townsend said...

I used to own the Oxford English Dictionary, but, alas, I loaned it to someone and never got it back! But I'm sure it would have an excellent entry on the word. No, there is nothing melancholy about this dump or any other I have heard. They are lively pieces in duple time.

Thanks!! There is undoubtedly a little Debussy in the DNA and a certain Asian influence as well. But the piece is mine own.

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks, Christine.

No, there is none of my music on YouTube. But all of the Four Pieces for violin and guitar are posted here:

That link takes you to the first piece and the others can be found in the list of posts on the right hand side.

What I am planning is an entire CD of my chamber music that will include the Four Pieces and my Songs from the Poets, which we are recording in October and my new piece for violin and piano titled "Chase" which I hope to get recorded in September. Then I expect all you folks to buy the CD!!

Marc Puckett said...

I'm sure we will make your CD an 'honorary' item in the 'basic CD library'. :-)

Bryan Townsend said...

Now there's a good idea!

Christine Lacroix said...

Hi Bryan
Can't find the last two pieces you said should be in the list of posts in the right hand side. Where exactly?

Bryan Townsend said...

Here are the 3rd and 4th pieces in the set: